2001 anthrax attack

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Cases of anthrax due to bioterrorism broke out at various locations immediately following the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack. There have been numerous exposures, several infections (eighteen), and five fatalities (listed here for now). Thousands have been tested.

Boca Raton, Florida

Robert Stevens, 63, photo editor at the supermarket tabloid The Sun, published by American Media Inc., died on October 5, 2001 from contracting pulmonary anthrax from an envelope. Stevens was a British-born outdoorsman and gardener who resided in Lantana, Florida. Ernesto Blanco, 73, mail supervisor at The Sun, contracted pulmonary anthrax as well, but responded to treatment.

Full timeline

New York City and New Jersey

Four people, Erin O'Connor, an NBC Nightly News employee, the 7-month-old child of an ABC World News Tonight employee, a female CBS News employee who handles mail, and a Hamilton Township, New Jersey postal employee, contracted cutaneous anthrax. All are being treated and are expected to recover fully.

Full timeline

Reno, Nevada

  • October 12, 2001, a letter sent to Microsoft's licensing office in Reno, Nevada from Malaysia was tentatively tested positive for anthrax. Bacteria of the genus anthrax belongs to was found growing on the letter. Later tests, were contradictory, but the final analysis as of October 13 is that anthrax was present on the letter. Nevada governor Kenny Gunn announced in a press conference that the envelope contained a Microsoft check and five pornographic pictures which appeared to have been previously moistened. Microsoft had sent the check to a vendor in Malaysia. Anthrax was found on one of the pictures but not on the check. There have been no reported illnesses.

Washington, D.C.

  • October 15, 2001, President Bush announces a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle had anthrax in it.
  • October 16, 2001, Tests confirm the presence of anthrax in the letter sent to Daschle. Furthermore, the anthrax powder is found to be extraordinarily pure and fine. Many in the media start calling it 'weapons grade' material, but federal officials call that an exaggeration. Authorities suggest this could only be produced with sophisticated knowledge and equipment, possibly by a state-funded organization. One possible source would be from one of the approximately 20 institutions in the United States which study anthrax, and have had relatively lax security procedures. Another would be Iraq or the former Soviet Union.
  • October 17, 2001, 31 Capitol workers (five Capitol police officers, three Russ Feingold staffers, 23 Tom Daschle staffers), test positive for the presence of anthrax (presumably via nasal swabs, etc.). Feingold's office is behind Daschle's in the Hart Building. Anthrax spores are found in a Senate mailroom located in an office building near the Capitol. There are rumors that anthrax was found in the ventilation system of the Capitol building itself. The House of Representatives announces it will adjourn in response to the threat.
  • Monday, October 22: Federal officials announce that two D.C. area postal workers have died from what appears to be pulmonary anthrax contracted from handling mail.
  • Tuesday, October 23: It is confirmed that the two postal handlers died of pulmonary anthrax. The men were identified as Joseph P. Curseen, 47, and Thomas L. Morris Jr., 55.

Anthrax scares, rumors, breaking news

  • October 12: The New York Times briefly closes its offices after Judith Miller, a reporter who coauthored "Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War", receives an envelope postmarked October 5 from St. Petersburg, Florida containing a white, sweet-smelling powder. The letter was addressed with crude handwritten block letters, with no return address. She opens it at 9:15 a.m. EDT and the powder coats her face and hands. It is later found not to contain anthrax. 32 employees were tested, and none were found to have been exposed to anthrax.
  • October 17: The FBI arrests a third person for sending a hoaxed anthrax letter. The Rhode Island man mailed it to his friend, who called 911.
  • October 18: In Nairobi, Kenya, the Kenyan health minister announces that a letter sent from Atlanta to a Kenyan citizen tested positive for anthrax spores. Two other suspicious envelopes, one of which was sent to a Nairobi United Nations office, are being tested.

In the following days:

Four employees at the New York Post were tested for exposure to anthrax after the arrival of a suspicious package.

Concrete dust falling from the Williamsburg Bridge sets off calls to police, who dispatch a hazardous response squad. Squads also investigate other locations, including a Harlem public school and Midtown offices.

New Jersey postal officials examine 120 suspicious packages and letters.

32 postal workers are evacuated from their Chappaqua, N.Y. office.


External Links and References

CBS Employee Contracts Anthrax; Third TV Network to Be Affected, New York Times, Oct. 18, 2001
THE FIRST ANTHRAX CASE: Spores Found at Post Office in Boca Raton, New York Times, Oct. 16, 2001
CHART: When and Where: The Cases, New York Times, Oct. 15, 2001
Inquiries Expand in Three States, New York Times, Oct. 14, 2001
NEVADA: Envelope Sent to an Office in Reno Contained Anthrax, New York Times, Oct. 14, 2001
THE DISEASE: Anthrax Threat Points to Limits in Health System, New York Times, Oct. 14, 2001
THE LETTER: Fear Hits Newsroom in a Cloud of Powder, New York Times, Oct. 14, 2001
FLORIDA: 5 More at Florida Office Test Positive for Anthrax, New York Times, Oct. 14, 2001
THE PUBLISHING COMPANY: Supermarket Tabloids Are in Role Reversal, New York Times, Oct. 14, 2001

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